It’s the fight club with a difference. There are no superegos played by Hollywood actors and the setting in a former church in Dulwich Hill is far from secretive.
Run by Father Dave Smith, the club meets at the Holy Trinity gym every Tuesday, Thursday and Sunday.
The gym, which used to be the Holy Trinity Church before it relocated across the road, opened in 1994 and is also a drop-in centre during the week.
Father Dave, as he’s widely known, invites young people to step into the ring to throw punches in a controlled environment.
“They want a release but we also teach the group to control their anger,” the former professional boxer said. “What happens invariably is a young guy gets in the ring and soon realises that fighting isn’t to do with toughness, it’s to do with the brain.”
Father Dave received Marrickvllle Council’s Citizen of the Year award this year for his work with young people. He received the same award in 1997.
Teaching young people to “move away from fighting with anger” is one of the club’s main goals.
“Once they do that, they can do anything,” he said. “The club is mainly made up of male members, but there’s a handful of young Women too.”
“It’s about teaching people to recognise their aggressive instincts and to control them.”
The club also provides direction for some young people.
“It’s one of the only places where you get young boys looking up to older men,” Father Dave said.
“Whatever authority we have here is charismatic, not institutionalised”.
“It’s a great equaliser. Once you’re in the ring, it’s just one body against another.”
“It’s very raw. There’s no bat or ball. You can feel a person’s emotions in the ring, much more than any other sport.”
After 18 years of working with young people, Father Dave said he still understands the challenges faced by those who have fallen outside mainstream schooling and society.
“I was a young punk myself,” be said. “I’ve never come across someone as screwed up as I was when I was that young. The guy who fights one more round, never gets beaten.”
Una Mafu received Marrickville Council’s Young Citizen of the Year award for her work with young people, especially in her role as the Pacific Islander community liaison officer at Marrickville High School.